Let's get to it:
MARC SIMON FROM NAPLES, FL: Why is it so improbable that Josh Dobbs could be a successful NFL quarterback? His intelligence is well-documented. He has a strong arm and is very mobile. He's been around the game for several years now. What is it that prevents him from ascending to the next level? What skills is he lacking?
ANSWER: You have hit upon why it's often so difficult and often nothing but a crapshoot when it comes to evaluating college quarterbacks and then projecting them into the NFL. I'm not a scout, nor do I play one for Asked and Answered, and so while I cannot accurately tell you why Joshua Dobbs hasn't become a starting NFL quarterback, or even a trusted No. 2 either, the actions of NFL teams with regard to him when he has been available indicate there is something missing/lacking in his game. Because Dobbs was drafted to a team that had Ben Roethlisberger as the starter, his early years in the league were pre-defined for him, but what opened my eyes was in 2019 when the Steelers traded him to Jacksonville after the Jaguars lost Nick Foles to a broken clavicle. Going to a team that had Gardner Minshew and Foles at quarterback, and then after Foles went on injured reserve because of the broken clavicle, Dobbs apparently never made enough of an impression even to be considered serious competition for Minshew. If I had to speculate, and that's what it would be, Dobbs' skill-set has him as something of a tweener, in that he isn't the classic drop-back passer who's going to complete a high percentage of his throws, nor is he a dynamic runner who can create big plays with his legs, a la Lamar Jackson. Dobbs is good enough to have a job in the NFL, but at this stage I just don't think there's going to be a team willing to make him a starter. I personally believe Joshua Dobbs has a much better opportunity to make an impact by using his brain than he would by continuing to chase the dream of being a starting quarterback in the NFL.
BRIAN MORELLA FROM POLAND, OH: The NFL trade deadline is in three weeks – 4 p.m. Eastern on Nov. 2 – and if the Steelers are 1-6, do you trade JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Joe Haden for additional draft picks next year? The NFL is a business and letting these guys walk for nothing is bad business.
ANSWER: Well, it wouldn't be for nothing, because if JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Joe Haden all signed with other teams as unrestricted free agents in 2022, the Steelers would be in line for compensatory draft picks, but I understand your general point. Here's the thing: While there may be some market for those players, I doubt the Steelers would be able to recoup much for guys who could become unrestricted free agents next March. I'm guessing conditional third-day draft picks (fourth round or later) would be about the best they could expect another team to pay.
PAUL PATTERSON FROM CARY, NC: What do you see in Mason Rudolph that makes you believe that he is a Super Bowl champion quarterback?
ANSWER: I never claimed that Mason Rudolph was a Super Bowl championship quarterback-in-waiting, and I doubt the Steelers were thinking about him in that way when they spent that third-round pick on him during the 2018 NFL Draft. Not every player is picked with the idea that he will be a key component on a championship team. Some guys are added to a roster to provide depth, to be quality backups, etc. I'm not trying to indicate I don't believe Mason Rudolph can be a Super Bowl winning quarterback, because who thought Nick Foles was going to be a Super Bowl winning quarterback, and that the Super Bowl he would win would come when the other team's quarterback was Tom Brady?
CHRIS HANN SR. FROM SARASOTA, FL: I'm old enough to have lived through the time between Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger. A friendly reminder as to who was between them: Cliff Stoudt, David Woodley, Mark Malone, Scott Campbell, Bubby Brister, Todd Blackledge, Neil O'Donnell, Mike Tomczak, Jim Miller, Kordell Stewart, Kent Graham, Tommy Maddox. This was the crew between Bradshaw's bad elbow and now Ben coming off elbow surgery. It's a delicate situation. With that being said, I do believe Dwayne Haskins and Mason Rudolph deserve a shot to see who the future is before we turn to the first round and the 2022 draft. Which one deserves the first opportunity now?
ANSWER: Neither one, and I am absolutely opposed to using any part of this regular season as a tryout camp for any position, including quarterback. During the regular season, you play to win each and every game, with the only exception being if playoff positioning has been secured and you want to rest some key players for the postseason. There is too much preparation that goes on during the offseason in terms of players getting their bodies in shape for the rigors of an NFL season, and not playing each and every game to win is a message to those guys that all they invested during those months doesn't matter. As a coach, you never want to give the impression to your players that their work didn't matter, because that also can convey the message that they don't matter. And that can become a damaging impression for players to have – rightly or wrongly – in a business where careers are very fragile. If at some point in this season, the decision is made that changing quarterbacks would give the Steelers a better chance to win at that point, then make the change. But until then, play to win. Each. And. Every. Week.
GRAHAM ANDERSON FROM PLYMOUTH, UK: What would your thoughts be on adding a second bye week to the season? Seventeen games over 18 weeks seems a very tall order give the rate of attrition from injuries across the league, not just the Steelers.
ANSWER: I wouldn't be opposed, but it should be noted there already is a second bye in the 2021 schedule, and it happened between the end of the preseason and the start of the regular season. Between the preseason finale – on Aug. 27 vs. Carolina – and the regular season opener in Buffalo – on Sept. 12 – the Steelers had 16 days between those games. Just so you understand, any adding of bye weeks during the framework of the current regular season would not happen without consent from the league's broadcast partners.
PAUL LUKACS FROM VIENNA, VA: Over the past few years, the offensive coordinators have adapted their play-calling to reduce the number of hits on Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers have both down-the-field threats and possession receivers. Has the "protect Ben" approach now limited our offense and will require a new offensive coordinator mind-set to bring a complete game plan back?
ANSWER: You seem to believe a "protect the quarterback" game plan is both somehow a negative and unique to the Steelers, but I'm here to tell you the "protect Brady" game plan has been in effect for over a decade wherever he has been drawing paychecks, and it's the same for the "protect Aaron Rodgers" game plan in Green Bay. Indianapolis employed the "protect Peyton" game plan for a long time, but then they got away from it with Andrew Luck, and he retired after six seasons, 86 games, 174 sacks, and God-only-knows how many hits on his body. Protecting the franchise quarterback and throwing the ball down the field are not mutually exclusive, and if an offensive coordinator believes that, then he should be sent to look for another job. By the way, through the first four games of the 2021 season, Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 11 times and hit another 30 times, based on the press box statistics kept by the home team.
DAN HARDER FROM SASKATOON, SASKATCHEWAN, CANADA: I have nothing but respect for Ben Roethlisberger, and I know this would be a different story if the offensive line was able to block. In your opinion, is there a quarterback on the roster who is enough of a dual threat to take some or most of the snaps until the offensive line can resolve some of its issues? Depth chart position aside, who can scramble best of the guys we have?
ANSWER: Or how about this for an idea: Don't be so much in love with an idea of a scheme to do what's necessary to protect the quarterback. If the offense cannot protect the quarterback with five offensive linemen, then keep in a tight end, or two tight ends, or two tight ends and a fullback. The late Al Davis always said that one of the keys to winning is "the quarterback must go down, and he must go down hard." If that's the key to winning for one team, then protecting the quarterback is the key to winning for the other team. How many times have we been told that without pressure on an NFL quarterback, he can pick any defense apart? So, protect the quarterback. Start with that. Then figure out the rest.
DALE WAGNER FROM BUFFALO, NY: What I would like to know is why don't they use Derrick Watt as a blocker for Najee Harris?
ANSWER: Or as a pass blocker for Ben Roethlisberger.
McLAYNE JACKSON FROM ROY, UTAH: If the Steelers are forced to play another quarterback (or choose to) would they most likely play Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins, or is there a possibility of an external solution?
ANSWER: An external solution? You mean like trading for Aaron Rodgers or Deshaun Watson? A big "no" on any possibility of an "external solution." One more question: Did you miss the preseason finale against Carolina? Because if you saw that game, you would realize Dwayne Haskins is not ready for NFL regular season football. Mason Rudolph is and has been the backup quarterback for the Steelers.
MIKE KONDAS FROM HARRISBURG, PA: The Steelers traded away a draft pick to put CB Ahkello Witherspoon on the roster. He rarely gets a helmet on game days. At least with Isaiahh Loudermilk, he is dressing and getting snaps on defense. Any thoughts on why they felt it necessary to add to the secondary right before the season started?
ANSWER: I believe the Steelers looked at their depth chart at cornerback and decided they could be in serious trouble at the position if one of their outside cornerbacks – say, Joe Haden – sustained an injury that would sideline him for four-to-six weeks. With Cam Sutton playing both outside and in the slot, their options – without Ahkello Witherspoon – would be starting Justin Layne and James Pierre full-time or starting Pierre and Sutton and having Arthur Maulet in the slot full-time, or bringing up Mark Gilbert from the practice squad. Based on that, when the opportunity to send a fifth-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft to Seattle in exchange for an outside cornerback with NFL starting experience – 33 starts over four seasons with the 49ers, including eight starts for the 13-3 San Francisco team that won the NFC Championship – they thought it was worth it.
KEN BALDASSARRI FROM BREWSTER, NY: If the Steelers continue to lose, the good news is they may end up having a high enough draft selection to acquire a franchise quarterback in the 2022 draft. I don't have time to follow much college football. Who might their quarterback choices be if they decide to go for one?
ANSWER: Just because a team has a high pick in the first round and uses it on a quarterback doesn't mean that player will become a "franchise quarterback." In the 2021 NFL Draft, quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence, Zack Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields, and Mac Jones all were picked in the first round, likely because the picking teams believed they were getting a future "franchise quarterback." Through Week 4 of this NFL regular season, those five quarterbacks have COMBINED for three wins, and one of those wins was inevitable because Jones' Patriots defeated Wilson's Jets in Week 2. I'm not saying none of those guys will develop into "franchise quarterbacks," but don't assume that just because a quarterback is a high No. 1 draft pick that he's rubber-stamped for greatness. Josh Rosen, Tua Tagovailoa, Daniel Jones, Dwayne Haskins, Josh Rosen, Mitchell Trubisky, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Blake Bortles, Robert Griffin III, and Christian Ponder all were No. 1 picks. It's not as matter of fact as you make it sound. And I have less time to follow college football than you do.